4 reporters, 2 lawyers, a scientist and an engineer walk into a campsite…

What happens when four journalists, two lawyers, a scientist and an engineer spend a weekend camping at Edison Lake?

They begin their days with coffee and the best hotcakes.

They hike to the Devil’s Bathtub, in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, and to Corbett Lake, in the John Muir Wilderness.

They swim in water so cold, and so life-affirming, that they have to sunbathe, lizard-like, to warm up again.

They debate the merits of the First Generation and Second Generation homemade granola bars.

They act goofy.

They feast on post-hike pie and beer. Then they feast on wine and charcuterie, and then couscous and roasted vegetables.

 

They pass around flasks and bottles of bourbon by the campfire, and express their gratitude for old friends and new ones.

They pack up the cars, and head over the Kaiser Pass, happy, sun-burned, and bug-bitten.

The Great Granola Bar Challenge

If you have heard one thing about our Epic Sister Trip to Joshua Tree, then you have probably heard about the homemade granola bars from Natural Sisters Cafe (pictured above.)

We ate our first Natural Sister granola bars – one was Mango Peptia, the other was Chocolate Blueberry – midway through our hike along Joshua Tree’s Lost Palms Oasis Trail. The first bites were life-affirming. The thick granola bars sparkled with sweetness, and bursted with creamy almond butter.

After that, we ate the granola bars almost everyday we were in Joshua Tree. We left Joshua Tree as a changed woman:  We realized we could no longer eat ordinary, packaged energy bars.

That’s when we kicked off the granola bar challenge. We became determined to re-create the Natural Sisters granola bar.

The first granola bars I made – following this recipe from Food52 – didn’t turn out so hot. They weren’t a disaster, but they didn’t hold their shape. In the end, the bars made for great granola.

Julie followed this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and said they turned out great. (Pictured above.)

Not to be discouraged, I next followed this Eating Well recipe for Almond Honey Protein Bars. Or, I tried to follow the recipe, but got distracted and forgot to add the cup of rice cereal. These bars turned out very dense, but I could tell I was on the right track.

I figured the third time would either be the charm, or I would strike out. I followed the Eating Well recipe again, correctly this time.

And they turned out awesome.

I’m already brainstorming my next flavor combinations.

Below is the recipe for Almond-Honey Protein Bars, directly from Eating Well:

INGREDIENTS

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon flaxseeds, preferably golden

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 cup unsweetened whole-grain puffed cereal (see Note)

1/3 cup currants

1/3 cup chopped dried apricots

1/3 cup chopped golden raisins

1/4 cup creamy almond butter

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

 DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch-square pan with cooking spray.
  2. Spread oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and sesame seeds on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the oats are lightly toasted and the nuts are fragrant, shaking the pan halfway through. I took the mixture out after 15 minutes, to avoid burning it.
  3. Transfer to a large bowl. Add cereal, currants, apricots and raisins; toss to combine.
  4. Combine almond butter, sugar, honey, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles lightly, 2 to 5 minutes.
  5. Immediately pour the almond butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula until no dry spots remain. Transfer to the prepared pan. Lightly coat your hands with cooking spray and press the mixture down firmly to make an even layer (wait until the mixture cools slightly if necessary).
  6. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes; cut into 8, according to Eating Well. Or, cut little pieces off all week, and then wonder where it all went 🙂

Do you have a go-to homemade granola bar? Or do you have a favorite energy bar that tastes almost-homemade? Tell me about it!

Good Reads: Adventure Slide Shows

 

For your weekend viewing pleasure, here are three adventure slide shows definitely worth clicking through!

Hot Tub, Ice Machine – Ice Climbing in Ouray Ice Park (New York Times)

Competitive Yoga – Scenes from the New York Regional and National Yoga Asana Championship (NYT)

The Nutropolitan Museum of Art – Peanut butter inspires art (Peanut Butter & Co.)

Enjoy the weekend!

My desert date with dates

And sometimes, I’m paid to go on adventures.

This past week, I reported from the Eastern Coachella Valley. On my way out to the community of Mecca, I stopped at Shields Date Garden in Indio.

I mean, wouldn’t you stop, if you saw a sign like this along the highway?

Yea, so I didn’t see that video.

But I DID slurp up a date crystal milkshake for lunch. (Recipe here.) It was essentially ice cream, with bites of date mixed in. And it was the best lunch imaginable for a journalistic adventure in the desert.

The shake wasn’t just a desert indulgence, though. For a date-obsessed gal like myself, it was also a way to recognize one of the Coachella Valley’s important crops.

According to Wikipedia, the Coachella Valley produces about 95 percent of the country’s date crop. Indio is host to the National Date Festival each year. A street in Mecca is named after the delicious fruit.

Next time I buy a box of delicious date rolls at Whole Foods, to take on an outdoors adventure, I’ll be reminded of my desert date with dates.

Good reads: Gourmet Tijuana, special split pea soup, and Occupy Yoga

For your weekend reading pleasure…

  • More than tacos in Tijuana

This one goes out to my fellow ‘New Yorker’ readers: Did you catch ‘The Missionary,’ a ‘Letter from Tijuana’ in the Jan. 30 edition?

The article is about chef Javier Plascencia, and his goal of converting Tijuana’s reputation from a border town to a foodie destination.

“People don’t feel very proud of Tijuana, because it’s always been a town of alcohol, sex, and drugs, and made up of everyone who wants to cross the border but can’t,” Plascencia said to the New Yorker. “I’m trying to make Baja and Tijuana a food destination, like San Francisco.”

Writer Dana Goodyear expertly weaves Plascencia’s culinary goals with a tale of his family’s history in Tijuana, and the history of the city. Foodies and world travelers, this article is for you!

  • Winter comfort food

It may be a 65 degrees in Fresno, but this Pink of Perfection post, ‘Winter Budget Meals,’ really resonated with me.

I made the split pea, coconut and brown butter soup last Sunday. The soup was as guilty good as the episode of ‘Gossip Girl’ I watched while eating it.

I think the winter squash stew with peanuts and cilantro is next on the list!

  • Occupy Yoga

Not in the mood to read? This Yoga Slackers video says it all.

Have a great weekend!

3 ways I’m improving my climbing this month

Looking for ways to spice up your climbing? Here are three ways I’m doing that in the next month.

 Better nutrition

Earlier this week, I slathered a spoonful of Cinnamon Raisin Swirl peanut butter on half a banana as I grabbed my climbing gear and ran out the door. As I struggled to make it up the wall, my arms felt like jello, and my energy level lagged at empty.

Contrast that with last Friday afternoon, when I blended a Vanilla Chai-flavored Amazing Meal – a protein powder billed as a “100% whole food nutrition mix” – with almond milk and banana, before a two-hour climbing session. That evening, I climbed some of the hardest routes I’ve attempted, and succeeded. My muscles sometimes went to slack mid-way through the route, but would recover quickly.

Amazing Meal is a great product. But I’ve learned that just eating a good, protein-full snack before a climbing session can make a big difference in my energy level and ability.

 Hot pants

Ever since I discovered YogaGlo, I’ve been streaming a class every morning before work. One of my favorite teachers on the site is Tiffany Cruikshank. Her classes are great, but what I really love are her bright-colored yoga pants.

“Where can I find bright yoga pants?” I asked my mom. Twenty minutes later, she sent me the website www.beyondyoga.com.

Fellow seekers of spandex pants in lava, lapis, and mosaic teal, rejoice. These are the Crayola-colored yoga pants we’ve been dreaming of.

 New challenges

But let’s be honest. Eating like a vegan bodybuilder and wearing blackberry-hued bottoms will mean little if I’m not continuing to learn and challenge myself on the climbing wall.

Case in point: Months ago, I made it my goal to learn to lead climb. I took the lead course, but never had the guts to get lead-certified.

Now, I have a new incentive. Looks like my adventure-princess-in-crime sister and I will be taking a trip to Joshua Tree in February, and I’d sure love to be able to lead climb there! (More on this adventure to come!

‘Be in Love. Eat Soup.’

“Soup is the food that can get us cooking again, easily, happily. Anyone can make a good soup, and therefore a home-cooked meal, and therefore a better day” – Anna Thomas

Yesterday, in recognition of National Soup Swap Day, I got together with two girlfriends to make – yup – soup.

It was not a traditional soup swap. We didn’t each bring six quarts of soup to exchange, as the Soup Swap guidelines stipulate. But we did each bring ingredients – and our culinary specialities – to Gosia’s cozy Tower District kitchen.

First, we opened the wine, and had bite-sized very veggie frittatas.

Then, we made a black bean and kabocha squash soup from one of my favorite cookbooks, ‘Love Soup,’ by Anna Thomas. It seemed fitting to choose a vegetarian soup from this book, since its mission is to bring people together to share soup.

“It seems to me that soup is the last best hope for home cooking,” Thomas writes in the book’s introduction.

While the soup was cooking, we made homemade corn tortillas.

While that was cooking, we made an apple crisp, which we devoured with spicy ginger ice cream.

 “There is an old Spanish saying, much repeated, ‘Of love and soup, the second is better,” Thomas writes. “But I say, why choose? Be in love. Eat Soup. Love soup!”